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Consumers’ engagement in the circular economy: results from a large‐scale behavioural experiment and survey in the EU

Suter, James; Cerulli‐Harms, Annette; Kettner, Sara; Landzaat, Wouter

In recent years, the European Commission has shown interest in driving Europe towards a more Circular Economy (CE) and has adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Action Plan to achieve this. We were appointed by the European Commission to conduct a behavioural study on consumers’ engagement in the Circular Economy to aid the implementation of this Action Plan. The study was conducted in two phases. Phase one comprised of a literature review, stakeholder consultations and consumer focus groups to understand current CE practices and consumer attitudes. Insights from this phase fed into phase two which consisted of a consumer survey and behavioural experiments. This quantitative research tested barriers and drivers of consumer engagement with CE practices. The study showed that consumers are generally willing to engage with CE practices. However, actual engagement was found to be low, likely due to a lack of information about CE characteristics of products. The study showed that providing consumers with information on durability and ease of repair shifted consumption towards products with better CE credentials. The behavioural experiment further showed that decisions on repairing products can easily be disrupted if repairing requires effort. To further enhance consumer engagement in the Circular Economy, this study recommends to: i) boost CE engagement by strengthening pro-environmental attitudes and awareness ii) create financial incentives for manufacturers to produce products that last longer and are easier to repair iii) make information on CE credentials (durability/reparability) available at the point-of-sale iv) take steps to make repairing easier for consumers and v) strengthen implementation of existing policies promoting the CE. This paper is based on a report for the European Commission entitled ‘Behavioural Study on Consumers’ Engagement in the Circular Economy’ (completed under Specific Contract – No 2016 85 06, implementing Framework Contract – CHAFEA/2015/CP/01/L), published in 2018. Reuse of this report is allowed under Article 6 of Commission Decision of 12 December 2011 on the reuse of Commission documents on the conditions that (a) the reuser to acknowledges the source of the documents, (b) the original meaning or message of the documents is not distorted and (c) the Commission is not liable for any consequence stemming from the reuse of the documents.
Published in: PLATE – Product lifetimes and the environment : 3rd PLATE Conference, September 18–20, 2019 Berlin, Germany, Universitätsverlag der TU Berlin
Published by ISBN 978-3-7983-3125-9